- Usually less than 12-cm, occasionally up to 200cm (B159, B160);
females grow larger than males (B159)
- Hatchlings: 16.0-19.0cm (B160)
- One year old: 25.0-30.0cm (B160)
General description: Adults thick-bodied, head rounded
and fairly well defined, dorsal scales are keeled, mid-body usually 19 rows of dorsal
scales. Pupil round (B159)
- Adult: Olive-grey, greenish, olive-brown or steel-grey
body with dark blotches and sometimes light stripes. Usually black-bordered collar just
behind head, collar usually yellow, sometimes white, orange, red. Eye orange.
- Abdomen black, grey or white checkered. (B160).
- Throat white or pale yellow (B160).
- Britain, France, Switzerland, central Italy: Collar pale
or absent, flanks usually have dark bars, back may have small spots in two alternate rows.
- Collar orange, white or pinkish, usually divided in the middle, with
black triangles/crescents on posterior border
- Southern Italy, Sicily: Sides and back often have bars.
- Iberia: Generally uniform, collar often absent.
- Northern and north-eastern Europe: Collar well-developed
yellow or orange. Body often has dark spots.
- South-eastern Europe, northern Italy: Collar well
developed, Body often with two pale stripes along length of body and often has spots,
flanks often have bars.
- Cyclades: May be almost entirely black, some are flecked
with light yellow. Collar may not be obvious, Body commonly bears three rows of dark
- Corsica, Sardinia: Collar usually weak. Body often has
dark bars on either side, reaching close to mid-line or meeting at mid-line.
- Black (melanistic): may occur throughout range; very
rare in Britain.
- Partial albinism may occur
- (B159, B160).
- Juvenile: Darker with markings less defined (B160).
Similar species and distinguishing features:
Distinguished from Natrix maura - Viperine snake and Natrix tessellata
Dice snake by:
- Lateral not upward-directed nostrils,
- Broad rectangular internasal scales,
- Typically seven upper labial scales, with third and fourth scales reaching eye, (Natrix
maura also)Usually single pre-ocular scale
- Two to four post-ocular scales
- Usually 19 rows of dorsal scales
- Not very strong keeling of dorsal scales, and keeling not always extending onto tail.
Elaphe longissima Aesculapian snake may look similar when
|Range and Habitat
Europe, eastwards to western Russia, also to northern
Europe and western Asia (B160)
- Britain: widespread England and Wales (B160).
- Not found in Ireland (B160).
- Mainly found in damp areas.
- In south of range: usually near water; may be found at up to 2400m.
- Northern Europe: mainly lowland
- Britain: open woodlands, hedgerows, marshy areas. Generally
preferes areas near water but sometimes found in dry areas e.g. sandy heaths, chalky
- (B159, B160).
- Mainly diurnal.
- Usually found in sunlit areas (e.g. sunny side of a valley); may bask on top of shrubs (B160).
- Good climber, may be found in bushes and low trees although does not climb high up (B160).
- Swim well, often searchs in water for food (B160).
- May "play dead" when cornered (B160)
- May void thick strong-smelling secretion from anal glands when handled, but rarely bite (B160).
- Oestrous period several days B160
- Mating usually in spring - April to May (B160)
- Eggs laid: June to July; late June/ early July in southern England
- Eggs often laid in warm places e.g. manure heaps; also in e.g. wall
cavities, old tree trunks, earth of ploughed fields. Females burrows into heap and forma a
chamber for the eggs. (B160)
- Laying of whole clutch may take 10-12 hours (B160).
- Several females may use same site (B160)
- Matt white, 25-30mm x 16-20mm when laid; increase in size by several mm
within a couple of weeks (B160)
- Number of eggs/young: as few as 8-10 from young females, 30-40 usual for
fully-grown females, and as many as 53 recorded (B160).
- Hatch usually about two months (6-10 weeks) after laying; variation
dependant on temperature and possibly on degree of development of embryos at time of egg
laying; 6 weeks to hatching at 20-26°C; mostly hatch late August/early September (B160)
- Hatching: use well-developed egg tooth, make two or three long
rents in shell, head emerges and several hours later juvenile emerges; egg tooth shed few
hours later (B160).
- Sexual maturity: males at about 50cm length i.e. autumn of third year (B160).
- Frogs, newts, fish, tadpoles, toads, lizards, slow-worms, young birds, mice, voles,
- Juveniles may take worms, slugs and tadpoles (B160).
- Hunt both on land and in water (B159, B160)
Predation: Badgers, hedgehogs, other mammals and birds (B160)
Organisations (UK Contacts):